Having trouble sleeping?

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I can relate. When I was working, I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep. I would be sleepy when I went to bed, but then I’d just lay there and start waking up. After an hour or so, I’d be wide awake and stay that way until three or four in the morning.

Once I had retired, my sleeping problems went away for several months, but now I find the same thing happening again. Sure, I could take an Ambien (and I do, from time to time) but who wants to have to rely on something artificial? Why can’t we just lay down,  fall asleep, and dream the night away? Wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the new day?

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Here are some things I’ve found that could be a factor:

Stress This is the big one. Job pressure, relationship anxiety, self-doubts. All of these can keep you tossing and turning, even if they’re not in the foreground when you try to sleep. They can be nagging you as you try to relax. There are a lot of ways to alleviate those concerns; here is an article I found: Stress Management – Ways to Relieve Stress See if these help. If not, don’t be afraid to seek help. Many employers have counseling strategies you can use.

Depression This is rarely something you can, “just get over”; it is very often a medical condition that might require counseling and/or medication. Unfortunately, the state of the art is pretty feeble at this time and some of the medications can have some adverse effects on your slumber. But my best advice here is to seek professional help if you suspect this is the issue.

Drugs Do you drink a lot of coffee or tea? Are you sipping on colas, or other caffeinated drinks all day and into the evening? Caffeine can take eight to twelve hours to clear your system; consider not drinking any of these past noon or so. I know I’m not willing to give up my morning cuppas, but I can give up the afternoon jolts.

Marijuana doesn’t help me sleep; I just lie awake, stoned and tripping. I do hear that there are strains that will help you sleep, but the state of street drugs here in Texas is too random to be a reliable remedy. And I’d still rather not rely on outside influences for help.

Alcohol is the worst. Sure, you can drink enough to pass out, but the torpor that results is a poor quality rest and I’ve found that after my Friday night rum and Coke party or that brandy binge, that I’m pretty worthless the next day and my sleep is ruined for the next few days. I’ve been avoiding alcohol this year and I found I rarely miss it.

Opiates and barbiturates fall under the same rules as alcohol. Amphetamines — need I say more?

Apnea  This is defined as a suspension of breathing. Symptoms are many, but snoring is a big one. Please, get professional help now. I firmly believe that this was a big factor in the death of my best friend, who died of a heart attack at 53 years young. Don’t let this one hurt you.

General habits Lack of regular exercise, random sleep times, eating late, etc. All of these can add up.

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What to do? I’ve been researching this for some time and here are some tips I’ve found that anyone can try that might help, but no guarantees:

The easy stuff:
Plan a time to go to sleep and a time to get up and stick to it. This is one of the most recommended strategies because it puts your body into a rhythm that it can recognise.

Avoid caffeinated drinks after Noon. I guess that pitcher of iced tea that I rely on to get me through the afternoon is going to have to go. Rats.

Eat your dinner no later than four hours before bedtime. Digesting and processing that food (especially the sugar in that lemon meringue pie) takes energy. You want to allow your metabolism time to crank down. Some light, late snacks might be OK.

Shower early or take a cold shower. Hot water will raise your body temperature. Turn down the heat in your bedroom for the same reason. Not cold enough to make you uncomfortable, of course, but cool enough that you don’t squirm.

Get some regular exercise. This seems to be hard for some folks, but the benefits of even some mild daily activity are enormous to your general well-being. If you work at a desk, get up every half hour or so and walk around for one minute and do some stretches. Go for a twenty minute walk at lunch. Take the stairs, rather than the elevator.  Little things can add up.

Try meditation. I used to do this when I was younger and I think I’ll start again, as it does help to center yourself daily. You don’t need this guy:

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Try this: Meditation 101

If you are still have trouble sleeping, or if you have other issues (chronic pain, uncomfortable environment, kids, necessary medications, etc.), then make a list and go through it one by one. Consult your physician, talk to your Significant Other, and make a plan. A good night’s sleep is an essential element for your health and general well-being. Don’t stay home without it.

Here are some related articles:

Foods That Help or Harm Your Sleep

Six surprising sleep wreckers

Healthy sleep tips

How to deal with stress at work

From Sleep Standards

Hopefully, we can all get back to this:

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